Editorial from the October 1929 issue of the Socialist Standard
At the moment of going to press we find a notice in the Daily Herald (20th September) to the effect that there is a split in the Communist Party and that Pollitt, Campbell and Horner are denounced as “Right wingers.”
We are not yet in a position to state how far the report is true, but the situation again calls attention to the fundamental unsoundness of the main plank in the policy of the Communist Party, both here and abroad. That plank is “Trust in leaders.”
The movement of the Communist Party, abroad as well as at home, during the last eleven years has been like the movement of a film from “Right” to “Left” with new stars in every period, or like the childish game of “who would be king of the castle.”
For a time each group of stars has occupied the stage, denouncing their forerunners as “Right” wingers and pushing them out. The last leaders, in their turn, then become the subject of denunciation as “Right” wingers. Each fallen.star is depicted in the blackest of colours, although he is in fact no different in mental attitude from his attitude in the starring period.
The attitude and methods of the Communist Party lend themselves to the job-hunting and wire-pulling methods of a type that has always been common in the working-class movement. And it was partly for this reason that Karl Marx and his associates insisted so strongly upon the fact that “the emancipation of the working class must be the work of the working class itself.”
It is also well to remember that while the energies of earnest and active working men are thus brought to nothing by the wranglings among the. kings of the castle, the capitalists can look on and smile, secure in the knowledge that an army torn with dissension can never be successful in battle.
Let the working class give up this slavish and sheep-like acceptance of leaders and themselves set about solving the social problem. The problem and the solution are comparatively simple, but they cannot be wafted away by phrases or slogans. The budding leader can always be recognised by his predilection for such things. Phrases and slogans have always been the stock-in-trade of the men who have striven to rise on the crest of waves of popularity to positions either of economic security or positions that flatter the vanity of the lover of power for its own sake.
The society we aim at building in the future is one wherein all will have a free and equal hand in the ordering of affairs. How can such a society be built on foundations such as the blind worship of the leaders of a day?
We repeat, therefore, again the lesson we have been repeating, monotonously for the last twenty-five years: No leader, however honest, clever or well-intentioned can lead the workers out of slavery. No man or group of men, however intellectual, can found a new society which depends for its success upon the knowledge and understanding of the bulk of the population. There is no royal road to Socialism. It can only be attained by working men and women who know what Socialism means and how it is to be obtained. Therefore, it is necessary for working men and women to do the comparatively small amount of thinking that is necessary to understand Socialism. When they have done so they will know the steps to be taken, and will no longer need to rely on the weak reed of leadership. In that day the utterer of cheap, choice and false phrases will find eloquence wasted and will be forced to go and find some useful occupation.